Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS2881: Myths of Transformation in Ovid's Metamorphoses

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2881: Myths of Transformation in Ovid's Metamorphoses

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 or CLAS1701 or equivalent degree-level study within English, History, History of Art or Philosophy.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop critical thinking in interpreting Ovid's myths of transformations in their cultural context.
  • To understand and interpret how Ovid's epic engages with different genres and media (e.g. epic, drama, painting).
  • To study the diverse approaches to metamorphic myths in literature, art, and philosophy.


  • By studying a representative number of episodes from Ovid's Metamorphoses (in translation), we shall investigate the concepts, functions, and criticism of transformation in the Greco-Roman world. Ovid's epic will be our point of reference and point of departure in exploring the contexts in which these tales were told in antiquity and the ways in which they could be manipulated to serve new purposes. We shall engage with literary versions and visual representations of metamorphosis, study the role of transformative myths in philosophy, religion, art, science, theatre, and politics, and explore the enduring popularity of this material. While the primary focus is on the classical sources and contexts, the various interests and disciplinary backgrounds that members of the class may bring to the subject will be integral to the module.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of a selection of Roman primary sources.
  • Knowledge of the range of current scholarship on metamorphosis in Greco-Roman literature and culture.
  • An understanding of the significance of literary and historical developments in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
  • An understanding of the ways in which different literary genres and media are involved in Ovid's narratives of change.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to analyse and draw conclusions from a broad range of primary sources from the Greco-Roman world.
  • An ability to evaluate and synthesise critical insights of literary theory in interpreting Latin literature.
  • A capacity to form compelling and original interpretations of primary sources.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to assess and compare a range of different arguments and methodologies.
  • The ability to use diverse types of evidence to build up a cumulative picture.
  • The capacity to produce tight, well-evidenced and clearly expressed arguments in both oral and in written form.
  • A capacity to produce independent and convincing interpretations of literary texts.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures introduce texts, major topics, and approaches in the analysis of myths of transformations in Ovid and beyond.
  • The formative essay will require students to develop arguments at greater length.
  • The examination will assess the students' familiarity with the evidence and the sophistication of their analyses.
  • The summative essay will test student's ability to focus on relevant issues and organise knowledge and arguments appropriate to questions raised.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 2 per week in Epiphany term 1 hour 20
Tutorials 2 2 in Epiphany term 1 hour 2
Seminars 4 4 in Epiphany term 1 hour 4
Preparation and reading 174
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 2 hours 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 2500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University